Badass toddlers can thrive when parents chill.
Baby’s first machete!
A new docuseries on Apple TV+ chronicles the development stages of young ones around the world, covering milestones such as walking, talking and, yes, wielding a massive machete to crack a coconut.
“Becoming You,” narrated by Oscar-winning “The Crown” star Olivia Colman, spotlights the upbringing of 100 children in regions from the American South to the remote corners of Mongolia. The snapshots show how a person’s first 2,000 days of existence have a lifelong impact.
The show, premiering Friday, kicks off with a 3-year-old boy running an errand in Tokyo completely unsupervised. While the image alone would make any American helicopter parent cringe, the series demonstrates that on a whole, the first few years of a kid’s life are fairly uniform across cultures, childhood-development expert Nathalia Gjersoe, Ph.D., who consulted on “Becoming You,” told The Post.
The main differences involve parenting styles, not the children themselves. Many cultures are far less protective of their young — and yet their kids turn out just fine.
“Perhaps we should [do] a little less [of] wrapping our children up in cotton balls and assuming they can’t do things, or not wanting them to do [something] because we perceive it might be dangerous,” executive producer Hamo Forsyth told The Post.
Each episode focuses on a different theme, such as how children develop emotions, movement or friendships.
Here’s a look at some of the most striking child-rearing methods featured in the docuseries.
A harrowing errand
“Becoming You” opens with a Tokyo father asking his 3-year-old son Ru Ru to go out and buy food (conveyed to the audience via subtitles and narration). He poses this request nonchalantly, as though he’s asking a 16-year-old instead of a toddler. The viewer initially thinks the camera angle might be deceptive — surely he’s asking a teenage sibling. But little Ru Ru sets off into the big city all by himself, crossing busy streets alongside bustling adults.
“I think that will have [viewers] hiding behind the settee and looking through their fingers at what they’re witnessing,” Forsyth told The Post of the sequence.
As Ru Ru’s journey is shown on-screen, Colman’s voiceover explains, “Here, it’s a custom known as the ‘first errand.’ It’s a child’s introduction to real independence.”
Experiences such as this help establish a child’s sense of autonomy, Forsyth said.
“You can see the children getting so much out of that opportunity to be themselves or to help,” Forsyth said. “I really learned that children are capable of much more than I think we believe.”
As Gjersoe told The Post, Ru Ru isn’t more advanced than a kid from any other culture where this action would shock a parent. The level of cognitive development required for the task is present in every toddler.
“As a parent, it’s so surprising that a child can have that much confidence and resilience to go off and do that,” she said. But viewers are able to see “that developmental process repeating again, regardless of the upbringing of some of the children.”
A forged friendship
Another sequence that will raise the eyebrows of Americans involves a 4-year-old girl named Emme who lives with a nomadic people in Ulaan Taiga, Mongolia.
“Becoming You” describes the location as one of the most “inhospitable places on Earth,” with frigid temperatures and barren stretches of wilderness.
On-screen, while Emme’s family builds their tent settlement for the night, her parents ask her to go collect snow in a bucket to melt for cooking purposes. The problem? The fresh snow to use is not nearby, and Emme must venture off into the cold wilderness to gather it.
She asks another little girl to join her, in one of the documentary’s examples of how kids make friends. The event is significant because for the first time in her life, she’s asking somebody outside of her family for help, Colman says in the narration.
“She’s figured out that with another person, she can achieve more than she can alone.”
A snack with help from a machete
In the episode showcasing how children develop critical thinking, one sequence visits a Bajau village — a cluster of houses on stilts in the sea off the coast of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. As Colman’s narration explains, this is a community that depends on the ocean for food and livelihood, and everyone is asked to chip in, no matter how old they are. Children are shown helming rowboats and wielding fishing knives.
The camera zooms in on 3-year-old Pilo, who’s rowing a small wooden boat all alone. Spotting a floating coconut, he leaps overboard to grab it.
“For most parents, a 3-year-old diving alone into the sea is the stuff of nightmares,” Colman says via narration.
The toddler is later shown trying to open the coconut using various methods such as throwing it on the sand. Finally, he finds a machete and gets the job done, expertly handling the sharp weapon.
“As one idea fails, he thinks up a new one,” Colman narrates. “Working through a problem in this way gives a child a huge rush of satisfaction.”
Forsyth says the scene illustrates how “Becoming You” aims to open the eyes of American audiences.
“Having seen some of these communities in far-flung places where they allow and expect the children to do more than they typically do, my initial reaction was, ‘I can’t believe that happens!,’ ” he said. “But then you watch them do it, and you think, ‘Of course they can do that.’ ”